Team leaders throughout the years have relied on technology systems of record to keep their data organized. A system of record is the authoritative data source for a given type of information, and the software that maintains this data becomes the organizational foundation for certain business processes. While many options exist for systems of record for single-lane disciplines like sales, HR and finance, there’s one area of business operations that many organizations have not systematized: SaaS.

Part of the challenge around adopting a SaaS system of record is that no single department “owns” SaaS anymore. This challenge is also the single biggest reason to evolve from ad-hoc processes to a system of record. In the past, a command-and-control approach to IT management meant that the IT leader owned the procurement process for all hardware and software. Rarely were employees empowered to make their own purchasing decisions.

Today, that reality is much different. Team leaders often select the tools they need for their direct reports to be productive. While this level of autonomy is great for business, it can also get messy when it comes to budgeting, security, compliance, and common business processes, such as onboarding and offboarding. Many employees today, regardless of their level of technical knowledge, spend the majority of their time at work using SaaS apps. Their reliance on these apps leaves little room for error for organizations to get SaaS management right.

A SaaS System of Record Enables Cross-Functional Collaboration

Instead of a department-specific system of record, SaaS requires a shared, collaborative approach among teams, who often have very different priorities. For example, IT and security teams care about whether apps are being used properly, and whether the organization’s sensitive data is at risk. Finance teams are all about keeping budgeting in check. HR or people ops want the right people to have access to the right apps on their first day. Team leaders need more apps, and they need them now. With so many different priorities, how can a single system of record serve them all?

Without a command-and-control model of IT (which isn’t practical for a modern way of working), a system of record is the best way to meet each of these needs. While each stakeholder may have a different level of permission, or access a different portion of the system, data on the entire organization’s SaaS stack is stored in a single place, and the company can start to recognize important patterns.

Why Systems are Important

Systems theory dates back to ancient societies, who performed feats of engineering without any modern tools. Instead of each person viewing their role in a silo, societies like the ancient Egyptians and Mayans created systems to build amazing, intricate structures. Today, the concept of systems thinking has become more widely adopted in the workplace. Rather than observing individual events and data, teams attempt to surface structures that drive patterns within those individual events or data points. Once organizations can get a handle on their systems, work becomes more strategic, and less ad-hoc.

From a technology perspective, systems of record can drive systems thinking in an organization that’s traditionally been siloed. Nowhere is this idea more true than SaaS management. Right now, so much time is wasted on creating one-off spreadsheets or workflows that aren’t regularly used across the entire organization. For example, when a new employee joins the organization, the onboarding process for their first day could be determined by an out-of-date spreadsheet that stakeholders aren’t necessarily updating or following by rote. Unfortunately, in these cases, the first impression employees get is chaotic at best.

The consequences of ignoring systems thinking in SaaS management could be severe. Recent research shows that the average 200-500 person company uses 123 apps, and has more than 2,700 app-to-people relationships. These relationships could span from billing owners, to admins, to day-to-day users. For example, if someone with admin status leaves an organization and isn’t properly offboarded from an app, the organization could risk critical data loss and reputational damages.

Each part of the system, no matter how minor it seems, leads to a more holistic picture of what’s happening in technology operations at a macro level within a company. Embracing a system of record approach could save serious time and money, and help the organization avoid potentially damaging long-term risks.

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